How to Fix eDiscovery Load File Errors [It's Not What You'd Think]

07 November 2021 by Ross eDiscovery Load-files

Takeaway: Load-file structures vary, depending on their parent eDiscovery software. So, it’s almost impossible to troubleshoot a particular load file’s problem without help from the vendor who designed it. The solution? Use an eDiscovery application like GoldFynch that’s designed to minimize load file problems.

Load files have been a key part of eDiscovery for more than a decade.

The data we collect for eDiscovery is usually an assortment of file types – e.g., PDFs, emails, TIFFs, and more. But eDiscovery applications can’t work with these files directly. They first have to slot them into highly-structured behind-the-scenes databases. It’s like taking a survey and slotting all the participants’ answers into a spreadsheet. Strategically reorganizing the information makes it so much quicker to skim through it later on. It’s the same with eDiscovery data and databases. By slotting your case’s data into a database, your eDiscovery software can quickly search for keywords, dates, and metadata entries. And here’s where load files come in. They’re special text files that help with the slotting-in process.

Load files can be problematic, though, because they vary significantly depending on the software you’re using.

There’s no universally-accepted protocol for load files. Each eDiscovery vendor designs load files (and load file productions) in their own way, so what works on one system may not work on another. And this makes it impossible to troubleshoot load file issues because the information you find online can’t be applied across variations of load files. You’ll have to go to the vendor who designed the load file you’re having trouble with. And often, they won’t be able to tweak their load file’s structure quickly enough, so there’ll be hundreds of other law firms and businesses also struggling with your problem. As you can see, the issue isn’t necessarily your particular load file. The problems stem from a fundamental flaw with the load-file design process as a whole.

So, what sort of problems are we talking about? Well, there are some low-level coding issues, for starters.

You’ll often come across issues with character encoding (converting text to binary numbers), delimiters (characters separating sections of code), and coding conventions. For example, the character “þ” can have different binary translations, depending on the coding convention. (Its value is ‘0xFE’ with CP1252 single-byte encoding, and ‘0xC3, 0xBE’ with UTF-8 variable-width character encoding.) So, different eDiscovery applications will create different binary translations for the same load file.

Then, there are higher-level issues to do with the structure of a load file’s database.

Load files have discrepancies even when we zoom out and take a macro-level look at things. For example, let’s take the ‘ATTBEG’ load file column. (It can also be named ‘BEGATT’, ‘ATTACH BEGIN’, or something similar.) This column is usually named after the Bates ID of the parent document in a file family. So, a parent email XYZ001 and its attachment XYZ002 would have the same ATTBEG value: ‘XYZ001’. But sometimes, a load file might reverse this convention. So, the parent email would have ‘XYZ002’ as its ATTBEG value. Different vendors might argue over which one is more logical, but it won’t get resolved because they’ll each go ahead and use their own conventions. And the result? You’ll get a load-file error and might have to go back to the producing party to replace the load file or get it corrected.

The point here is that it’s hard to resolve load file errors unless you can go into the code.

By now, it’s clear that troubleshooting a load file error isn’t the same as troubleshooting a PDF error, for example. There’s no single website that you can explore to teach yourself about load file problems in general. The only solution is to open a hex editor and dive into binary code or step back and examine the higher-level structure of a problematic file.

So, where does that leave law firms and businesses who need to tackle eDiscovery? The trick is to find eDiscovery software that’s designed to minimize load file problems.

Incoming load files might still occasionally complicate eDiscovery, but here’s what you can do to eliminate errors in outgoing productions.

1. Use an eDiscovery service that lets you customize outgoing load file productions.

eDiscovery services like GoldFynch let you customize your load file productions. And this makes it so much simpler to tweak outgoing productions based on specific production requests. For example, you can choose to:

  • Include or leave out native files. You can choose how many original native files to produce, and set criteria for deciding which ones to include and which ones to leave out.
  • Include or leave out image files. You can choose to produce TIFFs (lower quality but more compatible), PDFs (higher quality, but might have compatibility issues with other eDiscovery applications), or skip producing image files and stick with native files instead.
  • Custom format your load files. You can do things like change the title of load-file fields (e.g., File Name, Created Date, Email Send Date, etc.) and/or specify how each field’s data is formatted. Plus, you can create custom profiles with these specifications. So, instead of reconfiguring productions each time, you can click on your pre-configured profile. (You can export/import these profiles, too.)
  • Download individual load files. You can choose to download a load file without its accompanying production.

2. Use a Cloud eDiscovery service that can handle load files but doesn’t strictly need them.

Cloud eDiscovery services like GoldFynch are part of a new generation of applications that can process load files, but are designed to work without them, too. They still slot data into behind-the-scenes databases, but they take all the necessary reference material straight from the original ‘native’ files. I.e., they don’t need a load file to guide them. So, GoldFynch can handle incoming productions with or without load files, and create outgoing productions with or without them, too. This means you can cut down the number of load files in circulation and reduce the chances of load file errors.

At GoldFynch, we’ve designed our software to simplify eDiscovery on many levels.

When you dig a little deeper, load files are just one of many eDiscovery challenges. So, at GoldFynch, we tackle more than just load-file design problems. Here are some of our software’s features that might interest you:

  • It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?